Brazil’s mayor enters ring to settle political score

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – The mayor of a small Brazilian town took polarizing politics to another level when he played a cage match to settle a score with a former city councilor.

The mayor of the Brazilian Amazon municipality of Borba Simao Peixoto had a longtime beef with former city councilor Erineu ‘Mirico’ da Silva.

The coup de grace, according to local media, came when Da Silva posted a video criticizing Peixoto’s management of Balneario do Lira, a seaside and river resort that is the municipality’s main tourist attraction.

When Da Silva made a video threatening the mayor with a “beat,” Peixoto, 39, retaliated with a challenge: a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight in a regulation octagon, with a referee and fans, according to the Diario do Nordeste.

The three-round bout took place in the early hours of Sunday in the city’s sports center, with a large and rowdy crowd cheering on the two rivals.

Peixoto, an MMA fan who enjoys appearing in political commercials with his grappling gloves on, entered the ring slapping the mat and making a throat-cutting gesture towards Da Silva, showed a video of the fight published online.

The two shirtless men wasted no time pouncing on each other, but seemed to tire quickly.

Da Silva managed to take down the mayor twice – once with an early forehand, once with a leg sweep in the third round – but the judges declared Peixoto the winner.

The couple seemed to have exhausted their animosity by the end of the fight, exchanging a cheerful hug.

Peixoto later reportedly said the event was aimed at promoting the sport. It was also for charity, with the public invited to donate food to the needy.

But some were not amused.

Amazonas state health regulator has said he will demand an explanation from the city for allowing an indoor crowd of unmasked fans, violating COVID-19 social distancing rules.

Others criticized the men for turning Brazil’s already polarized politics into a real cage fight.

“There were only losers in this fight – including a healthy public debate and above all the voters,” the news magazine Veja wrote.

But some Brazilians have called for more of the same, in a country that appears to be heading for a nasty electoral showdown next October between far-right president Jair Bolsonaro and his nemesis, left-wing ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“Can you imagine Bolsonaro and Lula stepping into the ring? No restrictions, mind you, ”one Twitter user joked.

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